Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan is a little sunglass store in Japan that, quite actually, sells bowls of sunglasses for about 280 yen, which is about $2.80 USD. Believe it or not, these bowls are only one of the reasons that the store, whose name literally translates to “Aging Glasses Museum,” is so odd.
Hakubutsukan was first started decades ago as a junk shop, and used to be more of an urban legend than anything. Rumor had it that the store’s “second hand” goods had been reclaimed from landfills, heaps of trash, and successful dumpster dives. Eventually, though, the store was revamped and began to exclusively offer retro sunglasses and prescription glasses. It was around that time that the eccentric owner began to run the odd promotions that garnered a lot of attention.
One of its most famous deals is, of course, the Sunglasses Beef Bowl. Hakubutsukan packs a bowl from Yoshinoya, which is a Japanese fast food chain, with nine pairs of sunglasses, and sells the bowls for the same price that Yoshinoya sells their bowls of beef gyudon.
Hakubutsukan is also known for its “free glasses to tour buses” deal. The store will, as the promo’s name implies, give free sunglasses to tour buses. The thing is, Ikebukuro–where the store’s located–is like a grubbier version of the more popular Shinjuku, which is why there’s essentially no reason for a tour bus to stop there. Thusly, it’s up to the tourists to hound their drivers in the hopes of getting these free sunglasses.
The promotions have at least been relatively successful, and gained the store a reputation as being the go-to place if you want prescription glasses for exponentially reduced prices. Buyers are sometimes able to get as much as 99% off the original retail price of the glasses. The thing is, Hakubutsukan is only able to offer such dirt-cheap prices because they buy over-two-year-old stock that other stores might’ve just tossed away.
“Recycling sunglasses is a big part of our business model. We have some frames that have lasted people over 20 or 30 years,” explains Craig Anderson, CEO of The Sunglass Fix. “With new lenses, some old frames are even better than when they were first made. With over 1 billion pairs of sunglasses sold every year, most people in first world countries buy a new pair every year, primarily because the industry has made sunglasses a disposable commodity. With recycling and easy repair options, a lot of them can last much longer, which saves people money while also helping the environment.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, sunglass shoppers should get shades that can block at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays, since the entire point of sunglasses is to protect the wearer’s eyes from any possible damages. However, lenses will warp over time, so the two-year-old stock can actually cause a number of eye problems, like nearsightedness, for their wearers.
Then again, who could beat the novelty of buying a Sunglass Beef Bowl for just three bucks?